WAT's Sustainable Episode 13: Sustainable Menstruation

Thursday, April 14, 2022
by Sneha Praveen

WAT's Sustainable, Waterloo? Welcome to the official Sustainability's Office's podcast: WAT's Sustainable?  
Every day, 800 million women, girls, nonbinary people, and trans men around the world menstruate. Yet, stigmas persist around having conversations about menstruation, and the topic is viewed as embarrassing. Conventional menstrual products like Tampons and Menstrual products are incredibly unsustainable in terms of manufacturing and disposal since they are often made with single-use plastics and conventional cotton which are both immensely taxing. Over the course of a lifetime, a person who menstruates is predicted to throw away approximately 400 pounds of packaging from these products, which then end up in landfills, sewer systems and waterways. Not only are these products unsustainable but are also pose financial implications, Canadian menstruators are estimated to spend up to $6,000 on menstrual hygiene products in their reproductive lifetimes. On the other hand, products like menstrual cups are cost-effective since a single cup can be used for several years under proper care.  

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of people talking about sustainability, living a zero-waste lifestyle, and making environmentally conscious decisions. Because of this, we have seen more people breaking the silence, raising awareness, and challenging the stigmas around mensuration. 

With this increased awareness, there has been more pressure on businesses to manufacture sustainable menstruation products like menstrual cups, period panties, and cloth pads, which cater to a wider audience and give sustainable alternatives to those who menstruate.  

Access to reusable menstrual products is an equity issue. Managing menstruation should be a basic human right but too few women around the world have the resources to buy feminine hygiene products every month. When a woman must choose between food for her kids and pads for her cycle, when a girl in a developing country misses a quarter of her classes, when a woman loses her job because she cannot afford to buy menstrual products each month, the gender gap widens. 

On Episode 13: WAT’s Sustainable Menstruation, we discuss a prime example of innovation and going beyond ideas through the work of UW and WLU student entrepreneurs, Anna Wright, and Abby Loewen, who created SheCycle through the MEDAx pitch competitions. Learn more about SheCycle and their journey to create microbial cloth pads for women in Uganda.  

SheCycle is just one of many companies who have opted for a more sustainable outlook towards menstruation. In the market today, there are various products catering to all types of flows, comfort levels and other preferences.

Listen now 

Go to our podcast feed to listen to episode 13 now! 

Download the Episode 13: Sustainable Menstruation transcription with time stamps and resources. A .txt version of the transcript is also available for accessibility (scroll to bottom of page).  

We want to hear from you! 

Do you have any ideas or topics you would like us to cover, accessibility concerns or feedback on a particular episode? Email us at sustainability@uwaterloo.ca.